I will be the first to admit it- I have no intentions of aging gracefully. Frumpy polyester dresses will not find a home in my closet, nor orthopedic shoes or a stockpile of prunes bought with a senior discount. There will be no complaining over a plate of mashed peas, and you're not going to find me flapping my dentures at the local bingo hall. I will be that fifty year old figure competitor, that seventy year old marathoner, that octogenarian in red lipstick and heels...and if the words "auntie" or "granny" are ever hurled at me, watch out!
The truth is, I am excessively sensitive about aging. I lament the years I lost to cigarettes, booze and depression, along with all the bad decisions and wasted time. Moreover, since I've made my amends and changed, I feel like I deserve those hours back, as if 2003-2008 in particular should be deleted from my genes. And let's not forget about vanity, a sin far more favorable than sloth. Can someone please tell me why splurging on hormone-free meat and gym memberships is worse than spending all of one's dough on junk food, beer and big screen TVs?
This post is for all of you who believe that aging is a choice, who do not subscribe to the all too popular idea that getting older should be a reason for giving up, who balk at the words "retirement" and "can't." If you've been looking for the fountain of youth, I have it on good authority that you may want to sniff out a gym, a personal trainer, or just a set of dumbbells for the home. Consider Dr. Mariam Nelson's highly publicized study, which found that "after a year of strength training just twice a week, women’s bodies were fifteen to twenty years more youthful.” Or, take a look at the photos on the side of this post. Still doubtful? Keep reading on for eight reasons why weightlifting is the fountain of youth:
Reverses Loss of Muscle Mass and Strength:
As we get older, we lose about 20 percent to 40 percent of our muscle tissue. Research suggests that, after age 30, our muscle mass decreases by about 1 percent per year (or 10 percent every decade). This decrease in muscle mass results in loss of strength and accordingly, the ability to carry out some types of activities. According to The Framingham Disability Study on disability among the aging, 45 percent of women between the ages of 65-74 years and 65 percent of women between the ages of 75-84 years were unable to lift ten pounds. A minimum of thirty minutes of resistance training three times per week is shown to not only reverse age-related muscle mass loss, but also build new muscle. And, there’s no real limit on when the benefits of strength training max out, so whether you’re turning thirty, fifty or sixty-five, you still have time to build a new physique.
Increases Bone Mass:
An estimated 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 will experience at least one osteoporatic fracture, and 1 in 10 older adults are diagnosed with osteoporosis (which means “porous bones.” Falls are one of the primary causes of injury in senior citizens and bone density can make the difference between whether you are active or an invalid during your golden years. Many studies indicate that strength training can increase bone mass, particularly spinal bone mass. A study conducted by the incomparable Dr. Len Kravitz found that high-intensity and moderate-intensity resistance exercises improve musculoskeletal health and reduce the risk of falling.
Increases Growth Hormone:
Human growth hormone (HgH) has been all over the news recently, ever since Dr. Oz touted its benefits in slowing down the aging process, which is hotly debated in the fitness and medical communities. HgH is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland and is responsible for regulating muscle and bone growth, metabolism, and body composition. HgH is often referred to as the body’s natural “fountain of youth,” and as we age, the pituitary gland produces less of it. By the time we reach 60, we’ve lost an estimated 75 percent of naturally occurring HgH. While illegal to purchase without a prescription, you can stimulate its production with regular weightlifting and high intensity training. Cited increases range from anywhere between 300-770 percent following exercise, which is quite significant!
Improves Body Posture:
If one thing will age your body, it’s bad posture and unfortunately, in an age where most of us are huddled over our laptops, upper-crossed syndrome (hunched back, forward head posture and rounded shoulders) is becoming an all too common sight. Loss of bone density also contributes to poor posture. By engaging in weight training and focusing on corrective exercises that target muscles like the rhomboids and posterior deltoids, body posture can be improved. The confidence you get from regular exercise should also help!
It’s well established that a fitness lifestyle in general dramatically decreases illness, improves cardiorespiratory fitness and immune function, and reduces inflammation- one of the primary causes of disease. New studies also indicate that weightlifting may prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Japanese researchers from the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology found that older adults with amnestic mild cognitive impairment who participated in a program that included strength training, balance training and aerobics experienced improved cognitive performance. Another research group from the University of Pittsburgh discovered that, after a year of regular moderate-intensity activity, older adults showed increases of volume in the hippocampus and improved memory overall.
Controls Body Weight:
Once again, the age of 30 tends to bring some often unwelcome physical changes, including a reduction in muscle mass and overall ability in physical fitness, which can lead to weight gain over time. Our metabolism also slows down, and if you’ve been dieting frequently throughout your life, metabolic damage from very low energy intake can begin to catch up with you. Menopause and a sedentary lifestyle add to the challenge, and before you know it, you may find that the jeans you wore in high school would be better suited as socks or bracelets. Regular weight training will increase muscle mass, thereby boosting your metabolism and creating a more conducive physical environment for shedding weight while gaining definition.
Promotes Healthier Eating:
When you’re engaged in an exercise program, the last thing you want to do is sabotage all of your hard work by bingeing on empty calories that attack your waistline and starve your muscles of the lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and amino acids they need to grow and perform. A fitness-oriented nutrition plan that includes colorful fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, nuts and whole grains can slow down the aging process, thanks to the antioxidants, omega-3 acids and other nutrients these foods contain.
A Word on Creatine:
Creatine is a naturally occurring acid produced in the liver that supplies energy to muscle cells. Creatine supplements have become widely popular for their ability to increase muscle mass, improve strength and aid in recovery. They're also being recognized for their potential to offset the aging process by increasing strength, muscle mass, long-term memory, and even life span. Researchers in Germany found that mice fed a daily supplement of creatine lived an average of 9 percent longer than their cohorts. While more studies on the connection between creatine and anti-aging need to be conducted, this supplement is definitely one to watch.
So, did I convince you? Are you ready to drink from the fountain of weights? What concerns you most about aging and how are you being proactive in slowing down the process? Leave your comments- I'd love to hear from you!